Who Needs A Pick-Me-Up?

This week I had a question from a subscriber:  Would an energy shot or drink be good for me?  My initial reaction was “Heck no!”  Then I thought better of it and decided to do some research.

My initial “Heck, no!” response was from concern about caffeine intake.  The one who asked the question is a teenager and I’m concerned about use/overuse of energy drinks in teens.  This age group is prone to risky behaviors and generally feels a little immortal so I always want to wrap them up in bubble wrap 🙂  Overuse of caffeine can cause sleep problems, palpitations, anxiety and raise blood pressure.  Energy drinks tend to be sugary and high-calorie too.

I looked up the caffeine dose in a typical energy shot or drink and found that they are fairly comparable (per serving) to high-test coffee.  In addition, most of the energy shot/drink products have B vitamins and amino acids in varying amounts.  Some are sugary, some are sugar-free (and hence artificially sweetened).  I haven’t found any REALLY objectionable ingredients in mainstream energy drinks and shots.  Some have very high doses of B vitamins which have questionable benefit and potentional for side effects (for example, high doses of vitamin B6 can cause neuropathy).

After analyzing the information I think I can safely say that occasional use of energy drinks and shots is not likely to cause health risks.  However, many people don’t use them only occasionally.  Many people use them daily, sometimes multiple times daily.  When coffee drinkers use energy drinks and shots it compounds the toxicity of caffeine.  In addition, suddenly decreasing or stopping the intake of caffeine can trigger migraine headaches.

I would recommend some restraint on the use of ALL caffeine products.  Those with heart problems should not use much caffeine at all.  Children should not use caffeine products and teens should be careful.  If you find yourself tired and needing a pick-me-up, rather than reaching for coffee or an energy shot, take a look at your habits instead.  Are you skimping on sleep?  Are you skipping breakfast every morning?  Are you eating a lot of processed foods and junk food?  These habits can contribute to fatigue and make you feel stressed as well.

Before you make a regular habit of energy drinks, I have a few suggestions.  Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water.  Shift your diet away from processed foods towards more whole foods.  Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Eat several small meals (including breakfast!) throughout the day rather than two or three large ones.  Take a look at your stress and see if it might be contributing to low energy.

All things in moderation, folks.  Occasional use of energy drinks and modest coffee consumption by adults aren’t likely to cause problems.  Parents need to keep an eye on their kids’ and teens’ intake.  Be careful out there!

PS – Shaklee makes a great natural product that I took to China with me in June to combat jetlag.  It has caffeine from green tea but not as much as coffee or an energy drink, and it worked great!  For more info check here.

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6 thoughts on “Who Needs A Pick-Me-Up?

  1. All things in moderation! I think as a society we should be reminded of that more often.

    I do have to say that I really appreciate that you researched your answer versus going with your gut instinct. Dr. Jen rocks!

  2. Great “article”. I myself have never drank any of this energy type drinks, but I at one point was very reliant on iced mocha lattes. They gave me the get and go. Of course the sugar and the crash were not helpful. I did not understand why I craved it so much, but knew without it I was tired, irritable and just yuck! I found out that I was severely anemic (ferritin was 2). Apparently that us why I craved cold drinks and why I required a pick me up often throughout the day. Now I have normal iron levels, drink mostly cinch tea & use an energy chew sometimes before a workout 🙂 thank you Shaklee!

  3. Dr. Wurst,
    I am Valerie’s Biology II teacher at Strongsville High School and I greatly appreciate the time put into your response to her question. Do you mind if I use your response to Valerie in class?

    Thanks again!!

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